Summer Village of West Cove and Lac Ste. Anne Area - Our History
The Summer Village of West Cove is located approximately 80 km northwest of Spruce Grove and 100 km northwest of Edmonton, Alberta on the south shores of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta. It was officially incorporated on January 1, 1963. West Cove had a permanent population of 169 in the 2006 Federal Census. There are approximately 600 temporary residents and 305 lots.
West Cove is a diverse community. Its residents enjoy the rural outdoor environment and all that it has to offer. Much of the activity centers around the lake. Residents enjoy boating, canoeing, waterskiing and fishing during the summer months. In the winter there is snowmobiling, skating and cross country skiing. The Summer Village of West Cove is also part of the Lac Ste. Anne Multi-use Trail Committee. The residents enjoy riding and walking these trails on a year round basis.
Since the early 1900's, Alberta's lakeshore property has been purchased for cottage use with public beaches being developed along road and rail routes accessible from larger urban centres. Traditionally, summer villages evolved from cottage resort areas where seasonal residents desired a role in local government.
Lac Ste. Anne
People from all over the world have found a haven along the shores of Lac Ste. Anne. To the south, coal mines generate power and employment. Recreational businesses have flourished because of the lake. Agriculture is still a main stay and the area is known for its ability to grow some of the best oat crops in Canada.
Lac Ste. Anne enjoys a long human history before the lake was ever considered for recreational purposes. Lac Ste. Anne has a long history related to the first European settlements in Alberta.
The legend goes that the Indians hunted buffalo, and fished in the lake called Manitou Sakhahigan. Indian legend told of a large monster that lived in the lake, and as it moved it would create dangerous and unpredictable currents, which could easily capsize a canoe. Very few people saw the monster but when the priests came they renamed the lake Devil's Lake in reference to the reported lake monster.
Elders of Alexis Reserve remember their Grandparents telling of how as children they would go out on the lake and peer down through the then clear water to the lake bottom in search of the monster. They would hope and fear that they might actually see its legendary form.
The Lac Ste. Anne Mission
In 1842 a Roman Catholic priest, Father Thibault, decided to create a permanent mission for the Métis people. Devil's Lake was a central location with good fertile fields, tall trees for lumber, and plenty of fish and wildlife. It was also far enough away from the Hudson's Bay politics found in Fort Edmonton. On September 8, 1842, Father Thibault renamed the lake to Lac Ste. Anne, honoring his promise to the patron saint, Ste. Anne. He and another priest, Father Bourassa, moved into a newly constructed home without doors or windows, and with a dirt floor. The building would also serve as the church until one could be constructed (completed in 1843).
So began the Mission of Lac Ste. Anne. Along with the teachings of the church, the priests also taught the people how to farm. They had predicted the demise of the buffalo, and strove to make the Métis people self-sufficient. By 1859 the mission boasted 17 fat and fine cows, 15 horses, 10 dogs, 10 cats, and a garden with flowerbeds. Pigs and sheep were not raised because of the dogs and wild predators. Crops included wheat, barley, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and turnips. The Mission supplied Fort Edmonton with the majority of its food.
In 1859, three Gray Nuns journeyed the arduous trek from Montreal to the Mission. They were the third, fourth and fifth white women to travel to Alberta. On September 24, Lac Ste. Anne welcomed these brave women with enough mud to bog down their wagon at the entrance to the Mission. The Sisters began their lives here by learning the Cree language, starting a school, helping in the gardens and painting the windows of the church so that worshipers would not be distracted by the beauty outside during services.
The Mission grew until there were over 2000 people. The Hudson's Bay store, a separate school, an orphanage retreat, a North-West Mounted Police barracks, a dance hall, a post office, several stores, saloons and hotels moved into the area complimenting the church, rectory and convent. At one time this mission was larger in population and commerce than Fort Edmonton. Father Lacombe, arrived in 1852. In 1861 he decided to build a new mission at St. Albert. When he left Lac Ste. Anne, the mission was almost deserted by pastors and flock. All that was left were a few homes, the church and rectory, and the nun's residences.
Lac Ste. Anne has, since the time of the Plains Indians, been reported to be an instrument of healing. As far back as 1889 the priests recorded healing of various ailments: from general sickliness to tuberculosis, gout, or paralysis, that the waters of Lac Ste. Anne were reported to cure. Testimony is displayed at a shrine in the form of crutches and sight canes no longer needed by the owners. Today pilgrims come to the lake from all over the world, many walking miles bare-footed as penance to witness or to be a part of the miracle of healing. Over forty thousand people now attend the annual pilgrimage in the last week of July, which is sponsored by the Oblate Fathers. Priests, bishops and cardinals all come to help people in the curing of physical and spiritual ailments. Oaths of sobriety, along with other life style promises are made, and prayers and forgiveness are given. The Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 2004 for its social and cultural importance. It is the largest Native gathering in North America on an annual basis.